How to Use the Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive Correctly

Gordon Feliz • Updated Jan 2nd, 2024

Imperfect subjunctive Spanish lesson

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¡Hola, amigos y amigas! Today, we're going to dive into one of the more challenging aspects of Spanish grammar: the Imperfect Subjunctive. If you've ever found yourself scratching your head over sentences that almost seem to exist in a parallel universe of possibilities, wishes, or hypotheticals, then you're in the right place. Let's demystify this tense together with some practical examples that you can use in everyday conversations. ¡Vamos allá!


Understanding the Imperfect Subjunctive


When to Use It


Expressing Wishes or Desires:

  • Example: "Quería que vinieras a la fiesta." (I wanted you to come to the party.)

  • Example: "Ojalá que tuviera un coche nuevo." (I wish I had a new car.)


Hypothetical Situations:

  • Example: "Si tuviera dinero, viajaría por el mundo." (If I had money, I would travel the world.)

  • Example: "Haría la tarea si tuviera tiempo." (I would do the homework if I had time.)


Expressing Doubt or Uncertainty:

  • Example: "Dudaba que él fuera el mejor candidato." (I doubted that he was the best candidate.)

  • Example: "No creía que lloviera mañana." (I didn’t believe it would rain tomorrow.)


How to Form It


The imperfect subjunctive is formed by taking the third-person plural form of the preterite tense, dropping the “-ron” ending, and adding the imperfect subjunctive endings.


For example, the verb "hablar" (to speak):


  • Preterite third-person plural: hablaron
  • Drop “-ron”: habla-
  • Add imperfect subjunctive endings: hablara, hablaras, hablara, habláramos, hablarais, hablaran


Regular Verbs


AR verbs (e.g., hablar - to speak):

  • Example: "Si habláramos más claro, nos entenderíamos mejor." (If we spoke more clearly, we would understand each other better.)


ER verbs (e.g., comer - to eat):

  • Example: "Si comiera menos dulces, sería más saludable." (If I ate fewer sweets, I would be healthier.)


IR verbs (e.g., vivir - to live):

  • Example: "Si vivieras aquí, nos veríamos a menudo." (If you lived here, we would see each other often.)


Irregular Verbs


Some verbs have irregular stems in the imperfect subjunctive. For example, "tener" becomes "tuviera," "poder" becomes "pudiera," and "ser" becomes "fuera."


  • Example (tener): "Si tuviera más tiempo, aprendería a tocar el piano." (If I had more time, I would learn to play the piano.)

  • Example (poder): "Si pudiera volar, visitaría todos los países del mundo." (If I could fly, I would visit all the countries in the world.)

  • Example (ser): "Sería genial si fueras a la universidad conmigo." (It would be great if you went to college with me.)

Imperfect subjunctive in Spanish
Language Learning Exercises: Imperfect Subjunctive in Spanish


Expressing Wishes or Desires


  • Quería que él estudiara más para el examen. - I wanted him to study more for the exam.
  • Ojalá que nosotros viajáramos a España el próximo año. - I wish we would travel to Spain next year.
  • Esperaba que tú vinieras a mi cumpleaños. - I hoped you would come to my birthday.
  • Me gustaría que ella estuviera aquí con nosotros. - I would like her to be here with us.
  • Deseaba que mis amigos pudieran visitarme. - I wished my friends could visit me.


Hypothetical Situations


  • Si yo tuviera dinero, compraría una casa. - If I had money, I would buy a house.

  • Haríamos un viaje si ellos nos dieran el tiempo libre. - We would take a trip if they gave us the time off.
  • Si tú fueras más paciente, entenderías la situación. - If you were more patient, you would understand the situation.

  • Si ella supiera la verdad, estaría feliz. - If she knew the truth, she would be happy.
  • Si nosotros viviéramos en una ciudad diferente, nos encontraríamos con gente nueva. - If we lived in a different city, we would meet new people.


Expressing Doubt or Uncertainty


  • Dudaba que ellos llegaran a tiempo. - I doubted that they would arrive on time.

  • No estaba seguro de que la reunión fuera hoy. - I wasn't sure that the meeting was today.

  • No pensaba que tú quisieras ir con nosotros. - I didn’t think you wanted to go with us.
  • No creía que él entendiera el problema. - I didn’t believe he understood the problem.
  • Era improbable que nosotros encontráramos una solución rápida. - It was unlikely that we would find a quick solution.

subjunctive imperfect spanish depiction
Additional Resources To Learn More About The Imperfect Subjunctive


Here are some valuable online resources for learning more about the Imperfect Subjunctive in Spanish:


Holaquepasa explains the Imperfect Subjunctive's usage in hypothetical situations, expressing subjectivity about past actions, and its application in various sentence structures.


FluentU provides a practical approach to learning the Imperfect Subjunctive, discussing its use in hypotheticals, with certain verbs, and for expressing desires and doubts.


Espanol Lingolia offers free exercises for practicing the Imperfect Subjunctive with regular and irregular verbs, great for learners who want hands-on practice.


Here are some other miscalleneous articles that could be helpful:


Navigating the Nuances of 'Qué' and 'Cuál' in Spanish: Understanding the use of interrogatives like 'qué' and 'cuál' can enhance your grasp of Spanish, particularly in complex sentences where the subjunctive might be used. This guide is helpful for those looking to refine their question-forming skills in Spanish.


Beginner's Guide to Spanish Sentence Structure With Examples: A solid foundation in sentence structure is crucial for effectively using and understanding the subjunctive mood. This guide is a great resource for beginners to build or reinforce their understanding of Spanish grammar basics.

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